Crude-by-rail volumes continue to be sluggish at CP Rail
Crude-by-rail transportation volumes continue to be sluggish at CP Rail. The company reported fourth quarter volumes at just 9,000 carloads, down from 25,000 carloads in Q4/2015. For the full year 2016, volumes declined to 38,000 carloads, down from 91,000 in 2015. Crude-by-rail revenues are down about 70% from 2015 levels.
CP operates 24,000 km of track throughout North America, connecting oil markets in Alberta, the Bakken and Marcellus Shale to the US Midwest region and Eastern Canada.
According to the NEB, crude-by-rail exports to the US bottomed at about 40,000 bbl/day in June, but have since recovered to 100,000 bbl/day in October (the latest available figures). The rail sector was hit particularly hard by the wildfires in Northern Alberta last spring. Volumes remain far below the highs seen in 2014, where over 150,000 bbl/day of crude crossed the border by rail.
Almost half of Canada's crude exports by rail are destined for the US Gulf Coast, an area thirsty for Alberta's heavy oil but underserved by pipeline infrastructure.
Canada's crude-by-rail loading capacity will soon reach almost 1 million bbl/day due to aggressive expansion over recent years as a hedge against pipeline approvals, or more accurately, lack thereof. It would appear much of that capacity remains under-utilized, at least for now.